Owning Up - By Lenny Shulman

Thoroughbred ownership has changed mightily through the years. In the not-so-distant past the sport was dominated by scions of industry that nearly exclusively raced homebreds, matching generations of bloodlines one against the other.

That blood has thinned considerably, now divested among greater numbers of breeders, and today, save for a few holdouts, owners dip into the commercial market to buy their racing stock. More recently the rage among horse owners is partnerships, as the costs of buying and racing stock demand mitigation of risk among relatively small owners, while even the most powerful operations today seek out partners to lessen the blow of seven-figure equine acquisitions.

How, then, do Eclipse Awards voters parse out this new reality when faced with doling out an owner championship? Circumstances on the racetrack in 2017 will take us a long way in determining that answer.

Partnerships have been slighted in the way their accomplishments have been presented to voters. The slightest change in the name or line-up of partnership entities causes each to be listed separately from one another, so that if a certain person is involved in multiple partnerships that each raced top-level winners, he or she would not be credited for the totality of those accomplishments.

This season has lacked a dominant single owner. The trio of 3-year-old classic winners (quick, name this year's Belmont Stakes presented by NYRABets, G1, winner) failed to train on and accomplish anything over the year's second half. Superstars Arrogate, Gun Runner, and Songbird couldn't sustain their brilliance over the entire year.

Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms raced Arrogate, 2017 dual-grade 1 winner Paulassilverlining, and additional grade 1 winner Antonoe, giving it four top-level North American victories for the year, besting Godolphin's three, Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence's three, and Calumet Farm's two.

But what to make of owner Sol Kumin, who has taken the partnership concept as far as Larry David takes his neuroses, and with equal success. Kumin has revolutionized the partnership concept well beyond simply two separate entities joining forces. And although he owns a small piece of many horses, he actually owns a sizable chunk of his best 2017 runners. Kumin, his friend Jay Hanley, and two silent partners race under Sheep Pond Partners, and own two-time 2017 grade 1 winner Lady Eli whole. Kumin also owns 50% of 2017 dual grade 1 winner Beach Patrol and 50% of 2017 grade 1 winner Dacita. He owns 25% of additional 2017 U.S. grade 1 winner Ascend. But because he owns Beach Patrol under Sheep Pond and Head of Plains Partners (along with James Covello), Dacita under Sheep Pond and Bradley Thoroughbreds, and Ascend with Stone Farm, his cumulative totals won't be presented to voters in one place. It should also be noted Kumin purchased Dacita and Lady Eli at auction, and bought Beach Patrol privately after an allowance optional claiming win. These were not "ready-made" horses he bought into, although Kumin does some of that as well. 

All told, Kumin can claim at least a 50% slice of six grade 1 North American victories this season. Horses he co-owns have won at least 11 grade 2 events and eight grade 3 races as of Nov. 27. In all, Kumin has landed 25 graded races thus far in 2017 won by 16 different horses. Juddmonte's four U.S. grade 1 victories, and nine graded wins by six horses to date come closest to Kumin's totals.

Given today's reality of horse ownership, it seems to us when compiling year-end statistics for the purpose of awards voting, a person or partnership entity should be given credit, in one place, for the accomplishments of their runners. It is not that difficult with modern technology to sort numbers in this fashion.

If voters wish to deduct points for owning less than the totality of any horse or horses, that is within their bailiwick. But give them the tools to make the most reasoned choice possible.
Particularly in a year as wide-open as this.

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